Celebrating the “Deliciously Strange”: Renegade Characters

I’ve been mulling over the ideas in this essay for some time.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed about what inspired me to write Starting Over:  Rick:  BriannaRemusBooks.

I addressed a unique challenge I gave myself in developing my characters.  The popular culture doesn’t typically imagine young women in their late teens as ready for marriage.  But that wasn’t always the case.  Over the past fifty or so years, the age of first marriage for young women has been rising.

After last month’s meeting of my local RWA chapter, I saw a call for essays on the “deliciously strange” in our writing, and I couldn’t resist describing my characters as deliciously strange renegades.

The essay follows.

On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court held in Loving v. Virginia that the State of Virginia could not deny Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, a black woman, recognition of their marriage.  Asked whether he wanted to say anything to the Court, he said simply, “Tell the Court I love my wife.”  All state laws banning interracial marriages would henceforth be illegal.

Back then, Annelise Perigault, the African American heroine of Starting Over:  Rick, and the hero, Rick Santelli, would have each been considered edgy renegades.  They dated, loved each other, and married interracially.  Rick was an Italian American man born in Brooklyn, New York in the wake of the interracial tensions and violence that rocked New York City in the 1980s.  His family had always been open-minded about race relations.

But through a modern lens, Annelise is an anomaly and a paradox, a deliciously strange young woman.  She is a regular churchgoer, religious, and conservative.  Yet, she identifies as a feminist.  She is a member of a liberal Protestant denomination that ordains women and which tends to adhere to a more liberal view of sexuality and relationships.  She has no qualms about having sex in a committed relationship, and as an empowered young woman, she requires a partner who is mature and responsible enough to get on board with what she requires.

Fifty years ago, Seventeen Magazine published ads for hope chests, because it was fairly common for young women to get married when they were a few years out of high school.  Annelise would have been considered traditional, yet modern.   But in today’s world, she is a renegade.  She is a recent high school graduate and an honors student in college who hopes to get her B.A. while she gets her “Mrs. Degree.”   She might be inexperienced, but she has some serious game.  A grown up relationship with a man ten years older doesn’t intimidate her.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.